Monday, August 23, 2010

Another* Nectarine Story

Fruit is memory food for me. A bite of this, a whiff of that can take me instantly to my Southern California roots (picking succulent plums from our rooftop with my best friend Linda, parking in the orange groves with my boyfriend). Often the memory is France, vivid, random, sweet…

I recently joined old friends for brunch just up the street, in the middle of the week. So luxurious. It felt like Sundays of old. My friends are retired and I seem to work all of the time lately, so it doesn’t matter for me either, whether it’s weekday or weekend. But it still felt like Sunday. The talk was so good that I barely noticed what I was eating until I’d helped myself to fruit salad three times. Sensational fruit in a giant stoneware bowl. There was a whisper of cinnamon in every bite, really just a nuance. And the fruit was bright and sweet and tart on my tongue, just as it should be. I know my hostess well enough to know she hadn’t added sugar to perfect fruit. But she had just tossed it with a little limejuice and a squeeze of orange, and pinches of cinnamon. I left with the taste in my head, saving it for later.

A few days ago, I needed a palate-cleansing snack, just for myself—something light and refreshing, without chocolate, butter, or white sugar, please. I sliced a nectarine, squeezed a little lime and grated a little cinnamon. Freshly grated cinnamon stick is magical--it perfumes the air and your fingers as well as flavoring the food. I was starting to add the ripe blackberries and tiny strawberries from my Thursday night North Berkeley farmers’ market, meanwhile previewing the fruit with juicy fingers. Licking a finger, it hit me that the big (really big) star on the plate was just the nectarine with the lime and cinnamon. Thinking back, Nancy’s salad had lots of nectarines. It was the nectarines that carried the dish! I set my lush blackberries and exquisite strawberries aside for another moment, just to focus on the nectarines.

Recipe: Slice ripe nectarines. Squeeze a little limejuice over the fruit. Toss very gently to keep the slices looking virginal. Serve on the hand-painted plates that you bought in Moustiers 20 years ago on a summer afternoon, after pedal boating in the Gorges du Tarn. Grate a little cinnamon stick over each plate.

*My first nectarine story, “Chocolate And The Nectarine” can be found on page 68 of my book, Bittersweet: Recipes and Tales from a Life in Chocolate.